The man accused of striking a foreign exchange student in the back with a hatchet in downtown Nashville last week was expected in court Monday afternoon to hear what official charges he will face.
Dana Ericson, 59, Nashville, was charged preliminarily Feb. 19 with attempted murder, a Level 1 felony; aggravated battery, a Level 3 felony; and battery causing serious injury, a Level 5 felony.
Those charges could be amended.
Police said Ericson admitted to officers that he attacked 18-year-old Brown County High School student Zhang Yue because she is Asian.
He said he was attempting “ethnic cleansing.”
He called himself a white supremacist and the attack “communication.”
Ericson has a history of violent crime and of time spent in psychiatric hospitals, according to online court records.
Yue, of China, was taking pictures for a high school photography class on the corner of Van Buren and Gould streets at about 2:30 p.m. Feb. 18 when the attack occurred “out of the blue,” Sgt. Mike Moore said.
Witnesses reported to police that they heard Ericson yell something like “I am going to kill you” as Yue was walking away from the man.
He pursued her up a hill and she felt something hit her back. The officer’s report said she was able to take a photo of the man as he was leaving.
Officers found him near the intersection where the attack occurred.
Yue was treated at Columbus Regional Hospital for a 1½- to 2-inch-long and 1-inch-deep wound, which hit close to her spinal column, Moore’s report said.
She was released that night, Brown County High School Principal Shane Killinger said Friday. “The latest report was that she was home (with her host family), resting and doing well,” he said.
Senior Rusty Riley said he was shocked when he heard Yue had been attacked. He described her as shy at first, and a loving, sweet, funny human being once she opens up. The two met through a mutual friend.
“This being on purpose, I was very afraid to know that someone would want to do this to a student,” Riley said.
“I go out for open lunch every day and you never figure this is going to happen. When it does, you wonder, ‘What could drive someone to do this?’” he said.
Killinger said he hopes to see Yue return to school this week.
Her fellow students are eager to have her back, too.
After a Friday-morning announcement that Yue was OK, Killinger said you could feel the relief lift from the entire building.
“They were making her cards today in the cafeteria. One of the kids wanted to plan a welcome back (party) when she comes back,” Killinger said.
A couple of students went out on assignments in town for photography class on Friday, the day after the attack. Killinger asked that they go out in pairs.
“We’re trying to keep school as normal as possible,” he said.
Since 2003, Ericson has been charged multiple times with intimidation, battery, criminal confinement, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to court records. He used the insanity defense in more than one case.
He appeared in Brown Circuit Court by videoconference from the jail Feb. 19. He refused to raise his right hand when asked by Judge Judith A. Stewart.
“Have you ever heard of Adolf Hitler?” Ericson asked.
Stewart told him his hearing would be postponed because the state needed more time to determine official charges.
“I don’t even believe in your law. You law is a bunch of crap,” he said, adding that he only believes in the Declaration of Independence and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Ericson denied an attorney. “I understand laws and measures pretty well,” he said.
Public defender Jacob Moore was appointed in case he changed his mind at Monday’s hearing.
Stewart said she’ll ask for Ericson to be evaluated to determine his competency to stand trial.